Newhouse Applauds House Passage of Bill to Alleviate Drought Impact, Streamline Surface Water Storage Projects

July 16, 2015
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) issued the following statement after the House voted 245-176 to approve H.R. 2898, the Western Water and American Food Security Act of 2015, which includes legislation he introduced earlier this year, the Bureau of Reclamation Surface Water Storage Streamlining Act.

“I applaud the House for approving this vital legislation aimed at alleviating the drought’s impacts through short-term and long-term measures to bring our water infrastructure into the 21st Century,” said Rep. Newhouse. “The drought crisis facing Central Washington and much of the West makes it incumbent upon Congress to take action. As a third-generation farmer, I understand from personal experience that access to water is vital to the livelihoods and economic prosperity of Washingtonians. Improvements made by this legislation to accelerate the Bureau of Reclamation’s permitting process for surface water projects will better equip Central Washington and the nation to respond to and mitigate the effects of drought. I urge the Senate to swiftly approve this legislation.”

Rep. Newhouse introduced H.R. 2097, the Bureau of Reclamation Surface Water Storage Streamlining Act of 2015 earlier this year to streamline the Bureau of Reclamation’s environmental planning and study process for new surface water storage projects. The bill would apply the same streamlined water project development process used by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers under the Water Resources Reform Development Act of 2014 to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in order to facilitate the construction of new dams and reservoirs.

For the text of H.R. 2097, the Bureau of Reclamation Surface Water Storage Streamlining Act of 2015, click here.

For a summary of the Western Water and American Food Security Act of 2015, click here.



Mr. Speaker, this rule will allow us to consider the Western Water and American Food Act– an important bill that will help us respond to the severe water shortages facing California and much of the Western United States. Many people are confronting the worst drought that they’ve seen in many, many years, and a growing number of communities across the West have been acutely impacted by these arid conditions.  While certainly this crisis has been caused by the drought; our environmental laws, as well as misguided and outdated regulatory restrictions, have exacerbated the situation.  This bill addresses these policy failures and seeks to alleviate the impacts of droughts in the short and long term. 

My own district in Central Washington is dealing with serious water supply shortages—actually the whole state is declared a drought area. These are impacting the agriculture, energy, and manufacturing sectors, as well as families and small businesses that rely on adequate and stable supply of water.  These conditions are also increasing the threat of dangerous wildfires – and increasing the likelihood of a catastrophic wildfire – which could destroy homes, businesses, and large amounts of land, as well as crippling many communities in the West.  Over the past two weeks, in my state of Washington we have already seen new wildfires break out across the state, in cities like Wenatchee and Quincy, in counties such as Benton, Grant, Adams, and Douglas. Sadly, with an extremely low snowpack and continuing drought conditions, we are likely to see even more fires.

Mr. Speaker, as a third generation farmer I know firsthand the challenges facing many in our western agricultural communities, and the critically important role that water plays in agriculture’s success. In recognition of this fact, earlier this year I introduced H.R. 2097, the Bureau of Reclamation Surface Water Storage Streamlining Act.  This measure will speed up Reclamation’s feasibility study process on surface water storage, spurring the development of new projects across the West, and I was very proud to have it included in this essential legislation that we are considering today.